Physics and Astronomy News Archive: March 2003

Image: Light Echo from the Erupting Star Observed
Light Echo from the Erupting Star Observed
Source: HubbleSite   Posted: 3/28/03
In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy. The mysterious star has long since faded back to obscurity, but observations by NASA’s Hubble's Space Telescope of a phenomenon called a "light echo" has uncovered remarkable new features.

Image: Doomed Matter Near Black Hole Gets Second Chance
Doomed Matter Near Black Hole Gets Second Chance
Source: PennStateU   Posted: 3/26/03
New research suggests that supermassive black holes, notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, might also help seed interstellar space with the elements necessary for life, such as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and iron.

Image: Cosmic Muons to Detect Bombs
Cosmic Muons to Detect Bombs
Source: LANL   Posted: 3/24/03
A team of Los Alamos National Laboratory astrophysicists and physicists notes that in both laboratory experiments and corresponding computer simulations, dense materials such as uranium can be detected and imaged by tracking the paths of naturaly occuring muons as they pass through the target materials.

Image: Gigantic Explosion, Death & Birth
Gigantic Explosion, Death & Birth
Source: NASA/GSFC   Posted: 3/21/03
Scientists arriving on the scene of a gamma-ray burst just moments after the explosion, have witnessed the death of a gigantic star and the birth of something monstrous in its place, quite possibly a brand new, spinning black hole.

Image: Cool Fuel Cells
Cool Fuel Cells
Source: NASA   Posted: 3/19/03
Fuel cells promise to be the environmentally-friendly power source of the future, but some types run too hot to be practical. NASA-funded research may have a solution. A new breed of cool fuel cells may be just around the corner.

Image: Hubble Discovers an Evaporating Planet
Hubble Discovers an Evaporating Planet
Source: HubbleSite   Posted: 3/17/03
For the first time, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have observed the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet evaporating off into space. Much of the planet may eventually disappear, leaving only a dense core. The planet is a type of extrasolar planet known as a 'hot Jupiter.'

Image: New Brown Dwarf Found
New Brown Dwarf Found
Source: Johns Hopkins NVO   Posted: 3/12/03
A new approach to finding undiscovered objects buried in immense astronomical databases has produced an early and unexpected payoff: a new instance of a hard-to-find type of star known as a brown dwarf was found by the scientists at the Johns Hopkins' National Virtual Observatory (NVO).

Image: Longer-Lasting Lithium Batteries on the Horizon
Longer-Lasting Lithium Batteries on the Horizon
Source: Sandia   Posted: 3/11/03
Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., have developed a new class of composite anode materials composed of silicon and graphite that may double the energy storage capacities currently possessed by graphite anodes, potentially leading to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with more power, longer life, and smaller sizes.

Image: Scientists Say Mars Has a Liquid Iron Core
Scientists Say Mars Has a Liquid Iron Core
Source: NASA/JPL   Posted: 3/10/03
New information about what is inside Mars shows the red planet has a molten liquid iron core, confirming the interior of the planet has some similarity to Earth and Venus.

Image: Microtoroids Store Light Energy on a Silicon Chip
Microtoroids Store Light Energy on a Silicon Chip
Source: Caltech   Posted: 3/6/03
In an advance that holds promise for integrating previously disparate functions on a chip, applied physicists at the California Institute of Technology have created a disk smaller than the diameter of a human hair that can store light energy at extremely high efficiency.

Image: Changes in the Earth's Rotation are in the Wind
Changes in the Earth's Rotation are in the Wind
Source: NASA/GSFC   Posted: 3/5/03
Because of Earth's dynamic climate, winds and atmospheric pressure systems experience constant change. These fluctuations may affect how our planet rotates on its axis, according to NASA-funded research that used wind and satellite data.

Image: A Cocoon Found Inside the Black Widow's Web
A Cocoon Found Inside the Black Widow's Web
Source: NASA/Chandra   Posted: 3/3/03
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the mysterious 'Black Widow' pulsar reveals the first direct evidence of an elongated cocoon of high-energy particles. (A pulsar is a rotating neutron star producing powerful beams of radiation that sweep like a searchlight.) This discovery shows this billion-year-old rejuvenated pulsar is an extremely efficient generator of a high-speed flow of matter and antimatter particles.

Image: Massive Gas Clouds Found Around Jupiter
Massive Gas Clouds Found Around Jupiter
Source: JPL/NASA   Posted: 3/1/03
Using a sensitive new imaging instrument on NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers have discovered a large and surprisingly dense gas cloud sharing an orbit with Jupiter's icy moon Europa. Stretching millions of miles around Jupiter, the donut-shaped cloud, known as a 'torus,' is believed to result from the uncommonly severe bombardment of ion radiation the jovian giant sends toward Europa.

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